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Uni­ver­si­ties help stu­dents with anx­i­ety deal with tests

Cape Breton Post - - HEALTH FOCUS - BY NICK MARTIN

ing eval­u­ated,” Walker said. “ We work to­wards help­ing them suc­cess­fully take ex­ams.

“(Schools) don’t aban­don eval­u­a­tion. They de­velop al­ter­nate ways.”

U of M dis­abil­ity ser­vices di­rec­tor Lynn Smith said the uni­ver­sity urges stu­dents to come for­ward dur­ing the sum­mer, present their doc­u­men­ta­tion, and work out with staff just what kind of ac­com­mo­da­tion they’ll need.

“It could be from a med­i­cal doc­tor, or a spe­cial­ist in the field, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist,” she said. “Some stu­dents may even pay for fur­ther as­sess­ment.”

Stu­dents may come out of high school with exam anx­i­ety, Smith said. But a life event — health or so­cial is­sues, a death in the fam­ily — may trig­ger anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion. “It can de­velop” over a se­mes­ter.

“It can be stress that comes from an­other event,” said Smith.

Dis­abil­ity ser­vices tells a pro­fes­sor that it is ac­com­mo­dat­ing a stu­dent, be­cause the pro­fes­sor would then have to pro­vide exam ma­te­rial, but the stu­dent’s per­sonal and pri­vate health in­for­ma­tion would not be dis­closed — no rea­son for the ac­com­mo­da­tion would be given to the pro­fes­sor. “ We have a high de­gree of pro­tec­tion,” she said.

“Some stu­dents are quite open about their dis­abil­i­ties,” Smith said. It is usu­ally read­ily ap­par­ent to the en­tire class if a stu­dent is be­ing ac­com­mo­dated for vi­sion or hear­ing is­sues, through a note taker or in­ter­preter, said Smith — they make up many of the 958 stu­dents that dis­abil­ity ser­vices ac­com­mo­dated last school year.

Walker said exam anx­i­ety of­ten gets worse the more crit­i­cal the exam — schol­ar­ships on the line, en­trance to a pro­fes­sional school, pass­ing or fail­ing.

“Com­pre­hen­sives ( for doc­toral candidates) are a good ex­am­ple — it’s do or die.”

Walker said his first goal is to help stu­dents be able to take their exam un­der nor­mal con­di­tions. “ We see peo­ple se­lect uni­ver­sity pro­grams to min­i­mize the num­ber of ex­ams.

“ They re­spond very well to treat­ment, of­ten,” he said.

They can con­sider med­i­ca­tion, but most peo­ple don’t want any.

Some peo­ple are suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, said Walker: “ They crash right be­fore the ex­ams.”

U of W of­fers work­shops each year to help stu­dents deal emo­tion­ally with up­com­ing ex­ams.

“ We do rec­og­nize anx­i­ety as a dis­abil­ity,” said a U of W of­fi­cial.

But, she pointed out, while “Ac­com­mo­da­tions are in place to re­move bar­ri­ers stu­dents might face us­ing tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tional tools, they do not re­place the ex­pec­ta­tion that they will have to demon­strate com­pe­tency in the course ma­te­rial; the ex­pec­ta­tion to demon­strate knowl­edge is not waived.”

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